Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Ryoan-ji gardens

Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto

If anyone thinks of visiting Kyoto, Ryoan-ji(竜安寺) might be an automatic choice to visit. The “must see” reputation means everyone goes and the temple is always busy from morning to evening. The main attraction, the dry rock garden, is far from tranquil viewed from amongst the crowds.

What attracts so many people? It’s the mystery of the garden.
Almost no historical records remain and both the designer and the concept behind it are still unknown. Many scholars and researchers have given their reasons, but it is still been a controversial issue.

Forget about all the fuss and simply enjoy the garden seems to be the best way.

The roof of the Abbot quarter in front of the garden is being restored right now. That the view of the garden is different from usual because of the scaffolding and a temporary extended stage might seem to detract from it but it also means we can approach much closer to the stones and the different view might not be so bad after all for those who have visited previously.

The dry rock garden is what is most associated with this temple but it has a pleasant and much larger garden to stroll around. The precinct was originally the second house of an aristocratic family in the Heian period and retains some of the character of a private home. We can enjoy the two different styles of Japanese garden, a Zen rock garden and an aristocratic strolling garden.

The pond might have been used for a boating party by aristocrats who probably enjoyed the Moon Viewing there as well.

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